TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
LIKE millions of other South Africans, Dean Elgar was unable to stop his face from spreading into a dopey smile on Monday.
“Everyone at breakfast this morning was talking about what he’s done,” Elgar told reporters in Durban.
“It’s unbelievable for the country and for the world, especially with all the negativity that has been around sport of late.
“It’s something to unite us. One person doing that is unbelievable.
“The tweets were going out and it was unbelievable to see everyone focusing on one avenue.”
Wayde van Niekerk’s world record performance to win gold in the 400 metres at the Rio Olympics in Monday’s early hours brought out the kid in everyone, even a tough-minded opening batsman.
It also gave SA’s faltering test XI something to think about.
“Hopefully as a team we can start doing that a lot more and getting the people behind us,” Elgar said.
SA have the chance to do that in their two-test series against New Zealand, which starts at Kingsmead on Friday.
Rarely for a home rubber, SA will start as underdogs. By Friday they will be ranked No. 7 – two places below the Kiwis – and injuries have taken AB de Villiers and Morne Morkel out of the equation.
While New Zealand warmed up for the series by thumping Zimbabwe in two tests in Bulawayo, SA sent seven members of their test squad to Australia for an A series of two four-day games. Both ended in heavy defeats for the South Africans.
Stephen Cook, Elgar’s likely opening partner against New Zealand, scored five, nought, 53 and nought. Elgar made 56, 37, five and 35. Their most successful stand lasted 14.4 overs and yielded 26 runs.
For the rest, they were together for eight, three and 23 balls and for partnerships of five, nought, and one.
Those figures will not make reassuring reading for South Africans who are banking on Elgar and Cook to steady a team who have won only one of their last 10 tests.
But Elgar was as bullish as South Africans have come to expect him to be: “I think I had a decent run in Australia.
“There are areas I have to iron out within the next four or five days but I know it’s just a matter of application and doing the right things right.”
Elgar preferred to focus on the success he and Cook have previously enjoyed at the top of the SA A order – in the four first-class innings they opened disregarding the games in Australia they put on at least 50 three times.
“I just hope we can continue doing good for the team and hopefully we’ve got a bit of longevity with the partnership,” Elgar said.
Not that Elgar was all about hope on Monday: he also offered some clear-eyed honesty.
“New Zealand have had quite a bit of success throughout the last season or two,” he said of a team who have won half of their previous 10 tests.
“Their players seem to be a lot more established with regard to their roles in the team.
“This series is going to be a massive challenge for us but we don’t see it as a bad thing.
“We see it as something we can look forward to and try and test ourselves and see where we are as a team by playing a very good test side.
“We’ve got to go back to the basics of our our game. In the last two seasons we haven’t really done that well.
“We’ve had a lot of chopping and changing throughout the team, whether that was from a selection point of view or because of injury.
“So we’ve got to establish ourselves in world cricket again by ticking the boxes, doing the right things correctly.”
Do them like Wayde van Niekerk did in Rio on Monday and you can’t go wrong.